A MILITARY veteran who has seen action in some of the most dangerous war zones on earth is looking to help the fortunes of wounded veterans by creating his own brand of vodka.
Entrepreneur Chris Gillan was more used to dodging enemy fire on tours of Iraq and Afghanistan than distilling when he was discharged from the RAF after suffering a thigh injury training the Afghan National Police.
A chance meeting with a family friend inspired the 35-year-old to go into the drinks industry however, and now he is preparing to see his product Heroes Premium Vodka roll-out nationwide.
The new brand will hit the shelves of supermarket Spar Scotland before Christmas, while talks are being held with Booker Cash and Carry, Scotmid and supermarket giant Morrisons.
The tipple is already on sale in bars and clubs across Edinburgh, including The Stockbridge Tap, and is also available online.
And in a salute to his former comrades, the budding drinks producer has pledged to donate a fifth of his company’s profits to armed services good causes the Royal Navy and Royal Marine Charity, the Army Benevolent Fund and the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund.
He also aims to employ veterans, and ultimately wants the business to become a not-for-profit organisation.
Mr Gillan, from Leith, said he hoped to create a business that “gave back to the forces and veterans”.
“The forces charities helped me, and I was able to see how much demand there was for their services,” he said. “I wanted to create something that would give something back to the forces charities and to the employment sector.”
Mr Gillan received £10,000 from Start Up Loans via X-Forces, which provides business and employment support for ex-services personnel.
And if Heroes Vodka proves a success he plans to expand his range to include Heroes rum, gin and whisky.
“My ambitions for the business are huge,” he said. “It is good to get this recognition but I also acknowledge we have a long way to go.”
The Leith-based firm recently won a national business gong, Scotland’s Startup Loans Company of the Year 2013, and was presented with the award by entrepreneur James Caan of BBC’s Dragon’s Den.
Mr Gillan said: “Heroes Drinks has given me a sense of purpose, fuelled by my passion to create a product that can make some positive changes in people’s lives, one step at a time.”